By: Michelle Gomez, Staff writer
The Burnaby election campaigns have been underway for a few weeks now, and this weekend, we’ll be voting for one mayor, eight city councillors, and seven school trustees. The mayoral race mixes old and new faces, and three out of four candidates are independent. While many of the candidates have overlapping interests, each of the four has different priorities and different ideas on how to bring change.
Voting day is on Saturday, October 20. You can vote if you’re 18 or older, a Canadian citizen, and a B.C. resident for at least the past six months. You also need to have lived in Burnaby for at least 30 days before voting day.
If you haven’t voted in one of Burnaby’s municipal election before, you must register to vote. Registration is a quick, minutes-long process you can do by phone, mail, fax, email, or here at the Elections BC website. You can also register in person on the day you vote. On voting day, you can vote conveniently at any of the 34 voting locations between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Derek Corrigan, Burnaby’s current mayor, hopes to win his sixth election this year, backed by the NDP-affiliated Burnaby Citizens Association (BCA). His priorities include opposing the Kinder Morgan pipeline project, creating affordable housing, reducing traffic in Burnaby, and sustainable economic growth.
Over his past few mayoral terms, Corrigan has opposed the Kinder Morgan pipeline and has challenged the federal government in court. In his interview with Burnaby Now, Corrigan expresses on multiple occasions the complexities and power dynamics between the three levels of government in Canada, and how he thinks Burnaby can fit into these.
Another issue that Corrigan considers important is affordable housing. He explained in his interview with Burnaby Now that federal and provincial governments do not invest in social housing, and so the burden often falls on municipalities. The problem, in Corrigan’s eyes, is that cities don’t have enough power to do much.
However, he noted that his office has done what they can, including “building 1000 new below-market rental units in 16 new projects,” and taking “advantage of the new provincial rental-zoning authority to maintain and increase affordable rental units.”
Aside from having five mayoral terms’ worth of experience, Corrigan has been an influential public figure in the Lower Mainland. He beat Gregor Robertson to become chair of the Mayors’ Council on Transportation in December, and sits as chair on Metro Vancouver’s Climate Action Committee.
In his candidate profile, Corrigan states that: “In addition to my sincere commitment to help ensure Burnaby has in place policies and programs that reflect citizens’ needs and aspirations, I believe that my years as mayor, dozens of experiences as a community volunteer, and training as a lawyer all help me to achieve this goal.”
Mike Hurley, an independent candidate, seems to be Corrigan’s biggest competition. The two are closely tied among voters, according to a poll commissioned by the International Association of Firefighters. Of the decided Burnaby voters polled, 43% supported Corrigan while 42% supported Hurley.
Hurley, a former firefighter, he was president of the Burnaby Fire Fighters and of the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters. He has also been active in the community, helping start charitable programs such as the Healthy Snack Program and the Burn Fund Centre.
“I am stepping aside, as I believe the best way to make positive change in Burnaby is to defeat Derek Corrigan and elect a new mayor,” Keithley said in a news release. “I believe that Mike Hurley is the best candidate to achieve that. I recently met with Mike and we both realized that our goals for Burnaby were really not that far apart.”
Hurley’s campaign platform prioritizes affordable housing, health and wellness, and safety in the community. He has released a Housing & Affordability Action Plan and a Health and Wellness Action Plan, both outlining specific measures that he intends to take to improve Burnaby.
In the Health and Wellness Action Plan, he suggests creating a mayor’s council of “top notch doctors, nurses, and wellness professionals,” expanding and upgrading Burnaby Hospital, and setting up health care services that are closer and more accessible to citizens, among other things.
Part of his Housing & Affordability Action Plan includes banning demoviction in the city. More specifically, he wants to “place a moratorium on developments not yet approved until accommodation at the same rent levels can be found for residents who are being forced from their homes,” as Hurley’s website states.
Hurley outlines other goals there too, including public safety. He wants to “make our transit stations, parks, and streets safer and ensure adequate policing.”
Hurley opposes the pipeline, but in a press release, he asserted that “this decision will be made in the courts, not in the Mayor of Burnaby’s office.”
Helen Chang is another independent candidate for mayor. She was a Burnaby school trustee from 2005 to 2008 and now runs a small business. She has organized community forums on issues like hate crime, school bullying, immigration fraud, medical fraud, and women’s issues, and has done victimology research works on several of those topics. In 2010, she tabled a petition in Parliament for Canada to implement a Hate Statistics Act.
According to her interview with Burnaby Now, Chang’s top priorities for things she’d address as mayor are increase accountability in the Burnaby municipal government (she mentions “loopholes in our system” and “root causes of corruption” in municipal government), housing problems, and the Kinder Morgan pipeline situation. However, she plans to take a different approach on the pipeline than Corrigan’s.
“Instead of wasting time and taxpayers’ money by engaging in litigation where there is almost nil chance to win, I will cooperate with the federal and provincial governments and try to reflect the needs of our communities involved in this project to reach a most reasonable solution for everyone in Burnaby,” she told Burnaby Now.
“For the last 20 years, I’ve been working for myself, our community and people who cannot defend themselves due to systematic corruption and discrimination,” Chang says. “I believe this will make me a good mayor.”
Sylvia Gung is the last independent mayoral candidate. This is her third time running for mayor after receiving less than 1% of the vote in the 2014 election. Her occupation is listed as “newspaper promoter,” and she has spent a lot of time “wandering in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, exploring the services and mental health programs provided by various organizations or governments in this painful neighborhood.”
The three main issues that Gung hopes to tackle are corruption in the municipal government, high taxes that she believes should be lower, and enact changes in the school system.
In her previous campaign running for mayor in 2014, Gung controversially proposed a ban on public kissing. She believed that those who engage in public displays of affection are insecure, and that she could “help these people understand themselves.”
In her interview with Burnaby Now, Gung explained her equally controversial desire to abolish municipal elections. She declares that municipal elections are costly and that election procedures are “broken” and “awkward.” Instead, she proposes that: “Replacing election campaigns with the quarterly InfoBurnaby and debate sets will not just hit the hard core of the corruption but will also solve the housing woes.” In her official bio, she notes that “abolishing municipal election campaigns can solve housing problems.” In addition, she also wants to terminate the local school board.
On the question of schools, after volunteering as a parent classroom assistant for a year, she believes that schools should include more physical activity and arts and less “job training” in their curriculum. She also explained to Burnaby Now that “job training includes the essay writing training, which damages each student’s innate curiosity and creativity skills.”
“I have overcome or almost overcome 60 years of debilitating depression,” Gung told Burnaby Now. “My policy is keeping people healthy and happy regardless material wealth, which is the true function of the sustainable government.”